Trouble in paradise? Wife of former HFZ exec sued over alleged modifications to waterfront Miami Beach rental home

Separate lawsuit alleges the couple is hiding out in Florida to dodge a judgment in NY

From left: Ranee Bartolacci, Nir Meir, the Sunset Islands mansion and Mathieu Massa  (Getty, Google Maps, Mr. Hospitality)
From left: Ranee Bartolacci, Nir Meir, the Sunset Islands mansion and Mathieu Massa  (Getty, Google Maps, Mr. Hospitality)

Nir Meir, a former executive of New York-based HFZ Capital Group, can’t seem to escape trouble.

He is being pursued by lenders, investors and even HFZ. The major Manhattan condo developer’s suit calls him a “sociopath” and alleges he stole millions of dollars from the company to fund his exorbitant lifestyle. Meir’s attorneys have denied these allegations.

Now his wife, Ranee Bartolacci, is being sued by the landlord of the waterfront Miami Beach home she is renting. She allegedly made a series of alterations to the property, ranging from replacing appliances and furniture to having an exotic bearded dragon as a pet. In total, the landlord alleges more than a dozen violations of the lease. Bartolacci paid for a full year upfront, which if rented for its asking price, amounts to $1.8 million, according to court documents.

Though Bartolacci is the only person named as a defendant, she and Meir are said to be residing together in the Sunset Islands home, according to sources. Bartolacci signed the one-year lease for the seven-bedroom, 7,500-square-foot house in April, court documents show.

Bartolacci, her attorney and representatives for Meir did not respond to requests for comment.

The landlord, a company managed by Miami Beach developer and hospitality mogul Mathieu Massa, had listed the property for rent at $150,000 a month. Julian Johnston and Kristina Surtseva brokered the rental, according to the lease attached to the complaint. Johnston declined to comment.

Massa’s company that owns the Sunset Islands III property is seeking a temporary injunction to evict her from the home.

The allegations appear as if Bartolacci is behaving as an owner, not a renter. She allegedly changed the locks and security system, removed about $750,000 worth of furniture, removed and changed pool equipment, and installed a new wood dock, air conditioning, trees and planters. She also allegedly replaced the natural grass with fake grass, changed the fountain to a fish pond, installed a jet ski floating deck and more, according to the complaint.

Massa’s complaint alleges that the damage inflicted by Bartolacci could be “staggering” and that she could destroy the home.

Bartolacci’s response to the suit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court this month said the complaint is “a cynical litigation tactic” by the landlord, adding that it is an effort to avoid reimbursing her, which she alleges the landlord agreed to do, for the “necessary (and preapproved)” repairs and improvements made to the property.

Bartolacci alleges she was unable to see the property prior to renting it because it was occupied, and that it was delivered in June in a “dilapidated state of disrepair, neglect, and uninhabitability,” according to her response. The lawsuit includes a detailed inventory list with interior and exterior photos of the property.

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Massa, who is CEO of Mr. Hospitality Miami and Massa Investment Group, said in a statement that “it is unfortunate and sad that I had to file this lawsuit to protect my investment in my property.” He declined to comment further.

The collapse of HFZ, led by Ziel Feldman, has been made public in a string of lawsuits and foreclosure filings. In a lawsuit filed in New York state, Meir and Bartolacci are accused of hiding out in Florida to avoid paying a judgment.

In that suit, HFZ Capital is seeking $688 million in damages from Meir. In the 53-page complaint, HFZ alleges Meir engaged in a “Machiavellian scheme to enrich himself with tens of millions of dollars of HFZ’s money” through the creation of fake financial documents, fake financial reports, and fake bank statements.

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Meir’s lawyer, Larry Hutcher of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, has strongly denied these allegations.

“This was a desperate act by Ziel to salvage his otherwise unsalvageable reputation,” Hutcher previously told The Real Deal.

The New York lawsuit alleges that Meir diverted more than $100 million from loan proceeds from its signature project along Manhattan’s High Line, The XI. It further alleges that Meir stole millions of dollars from HFZ for his own personal expenditures, including nine luxury cars, which he still owns, as well as weekly $10,000 sushi dinners.

HFZ also alleges that Meir and Bartolacci continued to use the company’s money even after Meir left HFZ in December. This includes allegedly spending $50,000 at the Surf Club Four Seasons in Surfside a week before their Sunset Island house was ready, and spending $223,000 on a wine bill in the first week of August.

HFZ’s investors and lenders are also chasing Meir because he personally guaranteed some of HFZ’s loans.

One of these investors, an entity tied to Israeli car importer Yoav Harlap, is seeking to obtain the proceeds from Meir and Bartolacci for the sale of their $43 million Bridgehampton mansion. In April, a New York judge ruled that it could go after Meir for $18.5 million. But it has not had much luck collecting on these proceeds. A lawsuit filed by the investor alleges that Meir transferred assets from New York to Florida to avoid the New York court’s jurisdiction.